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Radium Dream

By Sheila Black

We come at the wrong time of year by a hair
or a week, and the brown birds flying onward,
out of reach. My son tilts his head. A minor star-
burst of cranes lights the far corner of
the sky—stragglers, fewer than expected,
but enough to glitter the air with strangeness—
these birds with their necks not tucked in, forming
their odd cries. When they land by the shore,
their toothpick legs appear hardly enough
to hold up their robust bodies. Often

I think—"That's not really happening is it?" as though I
were acting in a film or a vision of a life. On the
highway, they warn us not to drink—too much
uranium, leached down from the abandoned mines.
The cranes twist their necks to stab the quick-
light of fish. Do cranes know how to
swim? And why is swimming so different than flying?

Now, aloft again, they apparate with uncanny
quickness into cloud. How does the eye lose
them—is it how high they rise? The bones

in my son's hand, they tell me, have stopped growing
too early. They act like this is a problem, but I
have radium dreams—a brightness: Him, me, you, the
cranes, and in them nothing dies.




Listen as Sheila Black reads "Radium Dream."

Added: Monday, March 4, 2019  /  Previously in "Mas Tequila Review" (Spring, 2012) as “Bosque.” Used with permission. This Split This Rock poem is presented as part of "What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy," the third annual programming initiative of the Poetry Coalition. This national initiative is made possible in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation secured by the Academy of American Poets.
Sheila Black

Sheila Black is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Iron, Ardent (2017), and has co-edited two anthologies, Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (2011) and The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability (2017). In 2012, she received a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress. She holds a BA in French literature from Barnard College and an MFA in poetry from the University of Montana. She currently serves as Director of Development at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP.) Before that, she was the Executive Director of Gemini Ink, a literary arts center in San Antonio, Texas and served as Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at New Mexico State University Foundation.

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